1. The Earthquakes don’t just count offense among their weapons.
The league’s leading attack by a country mile came into Sunday night’s game with one singular mission: Shut the Galaxy down. And despite some dangerous moments (and a horribly misfiring Edson Buddle late in the game), that’s exactly what they did.
Frank Yallop was in the building three nights earlier when Vancouver bottled up the vaunted LA attack for more than 70 minutes and he clearly took a pointer or two as his Quakes held the Galaxy without a single shot on goal until the 66th minute. True, the defending champs did them some favors with some poor finishing down the stretch.
But when your calling card is your goalscoring ability, and yet you can also shut down a star-studded attack whose goals scored total in 2012 was second only to your own, well, that’s what you call championship material.
2. Josh Saunders is still perhaps LA’s weak link.
They rode him to an MLS Cup last season and Bruce Arena’s staff thought highly enough of him to jettison Donovan Ricketts in the offseason. But Saunders has shown, as he did Sunday night, that he’s still prone to inopportune mistakes at key moments.
Sure, Víctor Bernárdez’s stoppage-time free kick took a nasty deflection off Omar Gonzalez. But Saunders should have done better to stop it. One can only think David Beckham watched from the bench in horror while experiencing flashbacks to Robert Green vs. the US at the 2010 World Cup.
Saunders has been rattled before, giving up a bad goal at Columbus in August and at Morelia in the last edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. The 31-year-old veteran is also prone to spilling rebounds. This is not the time for Bruce Arena & Co. to have to worry about such miscues.
3. As ugly as this game was, the second leg is going to be epic.
The scoring chances were few, the passing wasn’t terrific. That’s what happens when one team plays not to concede instead of forcing the issue. But both the Galaxy and Earthquakes say they’re going to come out firing on Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium, a place where San Jose haven’t dropped a game in 2012.
For that reason, the defending champs have nothing to lose except their crown. And there’s nothing scarier than a highly motivated Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
But the Quakes are feeling it now, and now they’re in LA’s heads after a fourth straight game in which they scored the decisive goal after the hour mark. Strap in for this one.